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There is no one blueprint for the perfect classroom. But remember, classrooms are for learning, so you need to set up a space, physical, social and psychological, which helps rather than hinders your teaching and therefore, the pupils’ learning.
The physical setting of your classroom
Depending on your school, you may have more or less of a choice in how you alter the physical aspects of your first classroom. Aspects which you will need to be aware of are room layout, seating, lighting, wall displays and the physical resources and media available for you to use. When you are developing your first lesson plans, bear in mind the opportunities and limitations of your classroom environment and any changes you may need to make to facilitate the proposed work. If a high level of group work is required, a seating layout which facilitates that is important.
What resources are available to you?
Find out the range of resources available to you within the classroom; is there an interactive white board? Will you be supported by other adults within the classroom? Are there PCs / laptops for the students’ use?
Specific needs within the class
Before you start, find out as much as you can about your class group(s). Issues to remember are range of ages, special needs, grouping issues, and any ongoing school concerns regarding individuals or groups within the class. Are there any risk assessments or profiles for specific individuals?
Do your planned activities achieve learning outcomes? Most importantly, do your pupils understand the goals of the classroom activity? It is paramount that your pupils are engaged on the learning journey and for this to happen, they need to understand where they are going and how what they are doing will get them there. You also need to think about how you will recognise and reward pupil effort.
Classroom rules and routines
Rules in classrooms aren’t operative just because the teacher says so. They have to be set up, agreed, used, and periodically re-examined. Routines have an equally important contribution to make: they may not be framed as a ‘rule’, but they are the way of making things happen: how resources are accessed, how homework is handed in, how the classroom is entered, and so on.
Establishing rules and routines requires a lot of communication / teaching at the early stage. Pupils are likely to agree if rules are few in number and their purpose is clear. All parties need to publicise and refer to the rules and mediate them in so doing. Periodically the class examines whether the rules in use are fulfilling their purpose. Rules will often refer to five broad areas: talk; movement; time; teacher-pupil relationships; and pupil-pupil relationships.
Negotiation of classroom rules is something you can’t avoid. If you act as though you are imposing a rule system, pupils will spend some of their time testing it out. If you negotiate more of it from the start, pupils will be more involved in applying it and are likely to learn more about themselves and behaviour in the process. It is a good idea to connect rights with responsibilities during the process, for example: ‘We have the right to be treated with respect by everyone in the classroom’ and ‘We have the responsibility to respect all others within the classroom’, We have the right to express our own opinions and to be heard’ and ‘We have the responsibility to allow others to express their opinions and be heard’.
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules to dealing with your first classroom but we hope that you have found some useful pointers in the entries above – Good luck!
For further advice on this issue, ATL members can speak to their school rep, their branch secretary or their regional official. They can also call the London (020 7930 6441), Cardiff (029 2046 5000) or Belfast office (02890 327 990) or email email@example.com.
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